Sunday, October 31, 2010

Botswana! Better than the Commercial!

Sable antelope

     There is a current commercial in which many species of African animals are seen frolicing in the African river, living in complete harmony. The lion drinks next to the zebra. The meerkats ride on the back of a crocodile down the peaceful river. It is an idealic scene and it makes the object of the ad memorable. But for me it always reminds me of our views of wildlife in Chobe National Park where indeed it is almost as harmonious. I decided to tell you a little about Botswana and include some photos here. We haven't viewed any of our trip photos in this blog for a while. In this post, you will see some of the animals. Birdwatchers look for my next post in which there will be photos of many of the beautiful birds to be seen in Botswana.

     National parks and game reserves occupy 17% of the land mass of Botswana. Some naturalists have counted 165 species of mammals, 160 reptiles, 80 fish, and 550 birds have been counted among these hords of animals.
     Chobe National Park is located in the northeastern part of the country and is known for the Chobe River which runs through it and serves as watering hole and grazing center on the surrounding grasslands for herds of unulates and many of the country's 35,000 to 45,000 elephants. You can view these animals quite closely as they frolic in the water. But don't get between a mother and her calf at this National Park. The mother will charge the Land Rover in which you are riding, though she seldom if ever really comes in contact with the Land Rover. Still it is a thrilling experience. By contrast, in the game reserves near Kruger National Park in South Africa elephants are so used to the Land Rovers that it is the only place where a herd of elephants will encircle the Land Rover and pass by, the elephant cow even allowing her calf to be separated from her by the Land Rover. There the animals are very trusting. In Chobe, the animals are numerous but still wild.
     Pods of hippos are cooling off peacefully in the River pools. Water buffaloes, giraffes, white rhinos, and rarer black rhinos, zebras, wildebeests, impalas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, vervet monkeys, kudus, and water bucks are common. Occasional sable antelope are seen. White backed vultures, Maribou storks, and other large birds stalk the shallows. Gorgeous smaller birds are wonderful photographic subjects such as lilac breasted rollers, glossy starling ( an irridescent teal colored bird unlike our black starling), and helmeted guinea fowl stroll in flocks across the dirt roads of the park. Tawny eagles are seen in treetops and circling and a couple specie of hornbills come up the to camp to beg for food.
    We stayed at Chobe Lodge and there are warning signs to watch out for hippos out of the water and warthogs and to stay away from the docile looking water buffalo. Several of the local restaurants serve some of these wild game meals, not taken from the reserve areas, of course.
     We did not have time in our month long Southern Africa trip to also include the Okavanga Delta. This area is about an hour's flight by small plane form Kasane airport near Chobe. The Okavanga is the world's largest inland delta. Animals are very numerous here as well. Camps are common and safaris are usually very productive. But guests are discouraged from walking about on their own, and are escorted by knowledgeble guides from tent or cabin to dining tent etc. This is also true in the national parks and game reserves of South Africa. After all those wild animals are just out there! Botswana is one of the few places we have visited to which I want to return. I want to see the Okavanga also, maybe at the time of year when the migration of huge herds of wildebeest out of the Kalahari desert occurs. Will have to see if we have time in our life to make this return trip.
     Botswana is also just over the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls, one of the greatest water falls in the world, competing with Iguasu in Brazil. Victoria is just a short motor coach or van trip and a ferry trip across the Zambezi.

African wild dog

Honey badger

The females of the lion pride

common warthog


Cape Buffalo


Nile crocodile


                                          Hippos and impala in the distance

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